The Texas Supreme Court recently decided a case involving a country music superstar and the details of his DWI arrest in 2012. The case has made its way through the court system in Texas, and asks whether the private and embarrassing details caught on camera by a police officer are part of the public record and releasable by the government.
This began back in 2012 when it was widely reported that the country music star, Randy Travis, was arrested for DWI in Tioga, Texas. According to reports, state troopers responded to a report of a man lying on the side of road. The man was recently in a car accident, and was not wearing any clothes. Once the police arrived, they began a DWI investigation into what happened.
Following the initial investigation, the police arrested Mr. Travis for DWI, retaliation, and obstruction. The pictures of his mugshot became viral because of the black eye and cuts to his face, and once it became known there was video of Mr. Travis naked, a strong effort mounted to have it released to the public. That is where the lawsuit began and is now ended with the Texas Supreme Court.
Public Information Laws
Under Texas, federal, and most other state law, governments have an obligation to release public records to the public. This includes the records, video, recordings, papers, and other kinds of information that are gathered, produced, or handled by the government. These laws are meant to ensure that the public can monitor what happens inside the government, and avoid corruption.
The issue here is when and whether a record is actually public and subject to release under the law. That is the question the court struggled with as it made its ruling. In this case, the police officer happened to have recorded what happened between the singer and the police on a government camera, but does that mean that the embarrassing details and video evidence should be part of the public record. Or, put another way, how does releasing the information benefit the public?
The argument for release includes the fact that the police were on record interacting with a private citizen, and those actions and how they acted, if recorded, should be subject to release. Despite the pleas of the singer and his efforts to protect the details of the tape recording under medical and other privacy laws, the court sided on the side of releasing information when it is recorded by a public employee with a public system.
Your DWI Defense Team
DWI arrests and charges can become a public affair in a hurry, and when that does happen, it is important to have the right legal team defending you. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm, our name says it all. We work to defend those accused of DWI, and provide them with the best defense available. If you are facing DWI charges, contact us today. We will provide you with a free case evaluation, and help you understand what your options are.
(image courtesy of Zach Meaney)